Ducks outlast Runnin' Utes' late push to claim 80-77 win on road


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” Facing a 12-point halftime deficit, Utah had no other choice but to claw back in an effort to beat the visiting Oregon Ducks.

Coming out of the locker room, Utah was the aggressor and cut Oregon's lead to 4 points midway through the second half. It brought some energy into the Huntsman Center for a Saturday night tilt following the program's first win of 2022 on Thursday night against Oregon State.

Utah had the momentum and the effort, but Oregon was simply better down the stretch and hit a pair of 3-pointers that pushed the lead back up to double digits. A late, deep 3-pointer by Oregon's Will Richardson appeared to be the dagger for the Utes' chances.

But Utah eventually cut the lead down to 3 points with just over a minute left to play in regulation on a 3-pointer from Gabe Madsen and a steal and layup from Rollie Worster. Worster eventually cut the lead to 78-77 with 7.6 seconds left in the game on a pair of made free throws.

Oregon had enough in the tank down the stretch, though, and Jacob Young broke free for a transition layup on the other end. Without any timeouts left, all Utah could do was heave a deep 3-point attempt by Eli Ballsteadt at the buzzer, which fell short. Oregon survived the fight from the Utes and walked out of the Huntsman Center with an 80-77 win.

Utah (9-15, 2-12 Pac-12) attempted several times to get back to single digits throughout the second half, but the Ducks (15-7, 8-3 Pac-12) had an answer for every push the Utes made β€” almost always with a timely 3-pointer. The Ducks finished the road contest shooting 50% from 3-point range and outrebounded the Utes 41-38 to seal the night's effort.

But Utah never gave up and gave themselves a chance at the very end. What ultimately hurt the Utes was eight uncharacteristic misses at the free-throw line. Utah finished shooting 15 of 23 from the charity stripe after ranking in the top five nationally coming into the game.

"The one thing we've really hung our hat on this year β€” if you could say our biggest strengths β€” we've been top five in the country in free-throw percentage all year, and tonight, the one night that we don't shoot it well, to our average, was tonight and that really hurt us," Utah head coach Craig Smith said.

Oregon's Richardson dazzled for the Ducks and finished the night with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 5 of 7 from behind the arc, and five assists and two rebounds. Young finished with 14 points, four assists and three rebounds; De'Vion Harmon added 12 points, six assists and three rebounds; and Quincy Guerrier had 11 points and seven rebounds.

"They have some elite shotmakers," Smith said. "I mean, some of the shots they hit were just ridiculous, and that's why they're surging so we'll β€” like they make plays. ... Sometimes when teams make those kind of difficult shots, it's easy to get discouraged. And we had told our guys like they're gonna make some plays, and you've just got to tip your hat and say, congrats, let's make them do that for 40 minutes."

For much of the first half, if it wasn't Madsen, there wasn't much else Utah could do for a long stretch of the game. The sophomore guard, who earned a starting spot in the lineup Saturday, went on a tear to open the game against the Ducks.

Madsen started off the night with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off a screen for the first points of the game for either team, and then followed it up with two more on the next three trips down the court. The hot shooting gave the Utes an early 6-point lead β€” its largest lead of the game β€” before the Ducks fought back.

Oregon locked down on defense and limited Utah's open looks as every shot was contested. At one point in the first half, Utah had made just one field goal in 11 tries as Oregon built up a 15-point lead behind a 7-0 run. Utah closed the gap to 12 at halftime and were outmatched against a better Ducks team that has played great basketball as of late.

Madsen finished with a team-high 19 points, including five made 3-pointers, and three assists in the loss. Marco Anthony added a double-double in a well-rounded night with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Worster added 13 points, six rebounds and six assists; and Branden Carlson finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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